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Yard Management: Improve Visibility and Efficiency with Smart Trailer Technology

  • June 13, 2022
  • Bill Westerman
  • Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Inefficient trailer yard management wastes time and cuts into your bottom line. Smart trailer technology that includes trailer trackers and cargo sensors lets you improve your yard operations. (Credit: kevinjeon00/iStock)

Over-stressed transportation budgets have transportation and logistics executives scrutinizing the effectiveness of their operations, with a laser focus on yard management. Yard inefficiencies account for 8% to 10% of annual transportation costs according to Adelante SCM analyst Adrian Gonzalez. Hunting for the right trailer in the yard, sending a trailer to the wrong dock door and letting empty trailers sit idle all add up to money lost.

With or without a yard management system, trailer and cargo sensors integrated with  solar-powered trailer trackers give fleet managers and warehouse personnel the insights they need to reduce waste and cut costs. Data from these devices can feed into a dedicated yard management system via an application programming interface (API). In the absence of a yard management system, these data insights can be visualized through a cloud-based web application. 

With this data, yard and warehouse managers have full visibility into the location, health and usage of their trailers so they can find the right trailer, discern whether it’s empty, know whether the tires are low or flat and more. This trailer data can be incorporated with other fleet management insights such as preventative maintenance, route optimization and driver behavior information for a more holistic view of all fleet assets.

Eliminate time spent searching for trailers

When yard jockeys waste time hunting for trailers, yard operations are slowed, and labor hours can spill into costly overtime.

GPS trailer tracking enabled by solar powered telematics gateway devices on trailers provides real-time location data that eliminates time wasted looking for their assigned trailer resulting in happier drivers – an important benefit given the chronic driver shortage. Supply & Demand Chain Executive estimates that yard management systems reduce the time shuttle drivers spend looking for “lost” trailers by 95%. Even without a yard management system, trailer tracking solutions can make these drivers more productive.

Trailer tracking may even allow warehouse teams to move more trailers with fewer yard trucks, which can cost more than $50,000 per year. It also boosts trailer utilization.

Identify empty trailers

With trailer tracking, you know where your trailers are — but are they empty and ready to receive a load? That’s where an edge-to-cloud smart trailer platform comes into play.

Ultrasonic trailer cargo sensors affixed to the inside of the trailer roof identify which trailers are empty and how much space is left. These can be installed by the trailer manufacturer or by the freight transport or trucking company as an aftermarket addition. View the data in a cloud-based web application like CalAmp iOn or feed it into your yard management system.

Get the right trailer to the right dock door at the right time

Warehouses and distribution centers waste a lot of time running the wrong trailers to the wrong dock doors. Trailer trackers that send location data to the cloud, and ultimately into a yard management system, help warehouse managers cut that waste.

Each trailer parking space and dock location can be geofenced, and those geofenced locations can be connected in a yard management system or web application. Together, GPS trailer tracking and geofencing supply essential data to support system-directed moves that match the trailer to the correct dock. This in turn allows the shuttle driver to find the right trailer and move it to the right dock in a single trip, without multiple radio calls or paper pick lists on clipboards.

Warehouse and yard managers can also monitor the location of trailers as they move from parking space to dock, and to a new location once fully loaded. Visibility into all the trailers in a yard allows the yard management system to coordinate trailer loading, unloading and overall movement for maximum efficiency, potentially delivering as much as a 20% increase in dock utilization and a 30% increase in overall productivity.

Minimize detention charges and keep your yard moving

With trailer detention charges as high as $200 per day, empty trailers sitting in the yard can get expensive fast. Trailer trackers such as a solar powered asset tracker used in conjunction with a smart trailer platform can provide dwell time on every trailer in the yard, which lets yard and shipping managers know how long a trailer has been sitting. 

Driver detention charges can also be avoided using trailer tracking. These charges can hit $1,000 per day when a shipper fails to unload a trailer within the agreed-upon time. Trailer tracker data can be used to alert yard and warehouse personnel when a load arrives so a dock door can be quickly assigned and the truck can be unloaded and sent to its next stop.

Monitor tire status

A trailer may be empty and ready to receive cargo, but are its tires ready to hit the road? Are they underinflated or flat? If a driver has to wait for maintenance personnel to inflate or replace tires, or for another empty trailer to be found, dwell time increases.

A trailer tire pressure monitoring system (TMPS), another feature of smart trailer technology, is critical to maximizing the efficiency of yard operations. Increased visibility into trailer readiness helps maintenance, dispatch and other teams work more efficiently to manage yard operations.

Together with trailer tracking and cargo sensing, tire pressure monitoring can create more transportation capacity by reducing dwell time.

The pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency across the supply chain is increasing at an alarming rate. Data from smart trailer technology, with or without a yard management system, can be used to optimize yard management, shrink waste and increase profitability.

Smart trailer solutions can be purchased as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application, such as CalAmp iOn, or via a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where fleet operators can ingest smart trailer data insights into their yard management system via API or build their own system in a cloud platform such as the CalAmp Telematics Cloud.

Learn more about how CalAmp’s edge-to-cloud smart trailer solution can help optimize yard management.